dorothystewartblog

about writing and life and God

Dementia Diary 11: Finding your peace

on October 5, 2012

I’m back from today’s outing with my husband. We didn’t go out last Friday because I was in Scotland visiting my sister – for the first time in four years, the first time since my mother’s funeral. So it’s been two weeks since I’ve seen him.

I was already feeling a bit jangled. I’d read yesterday’s d4dementia.blogspot.co.uk “Time well spent” about visiting your loved one when they’re living away from you in a care facility. Beth writes from experience and she writes with hard-earned wisdom and compassion.

But after reading her blog yesterday, I felt apprehensive as I set out today. Feeling I was starting out from the back of the class where the failures sit.

Because ….

So many things.

Beth writes from the perspective of a daughter. I am (or was) a wife. Making it more difficult, I am the second wife. Very much Johnnie-come-lately. That means I do not have long years of shared memories to draw on. I wasn’t there until remarkably recently. And our ‘good times’ belong to memory that is fading rapidly. Neither do I have that deep reservoir of many years’ love and comfortableness with one another to draw on. I am, almost, a stranger – as he is to me.

Beth appears to write from the perspective of a loved daughter in relationship with a much-loved and respected Dad. But not all dementia patients were loving Dads/Mothers or husbands/wives. Instead of a reservoir of mutual love and happy memories, there can be a quagmire of unhappy memories, of abuse and violence. But the honourable partner is left with the marriage vow’s requirement to hang in there in sickness as well as in health. And society’s unspoken demand is that this is our responsibility – whatever that person may have done to us in the past.

It is possible – as in the case of a friend and her abusive mother – that the final years bring an unexpected bounty of forgiveness and compassion and even love, so that old scores are left behind, unhappy memories are overtaken by a new tenderness.

Each one of us carers is in a different place emotionally and relationally. Our loved one may be an angel or a devil-in-disguise (because the other folks out there never see him/her at their worst!). We need to protect ourselves from harm. And we need to be honest with ourselves about what we can do as far as care and visiting and taking out on outings are concerned.

Your answer is likely to be different from mine. But it helps me to know that you won’t judge me for mine, just as I won’t judge you for yours.

Forcing ourselves to do what is painful, dangerous, harmful to ourselves is not going to help that person in the care home. Reaching a settlement with ourselves that we are comfortable with will enable us to do what we can with good grace and a peaceful heart.

I need to sort that out for myself… before next Friday!

 

The text: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, who promised us your peace, help us to recognise what we can do and what we cannot do, and give us peace about what we choose to do.

Self-care suggestion: Look at Cynthia’s #nafffriday joke at 4pm on Twitter (@SPCKPublishing) It will make you groan and it will make you laugh!

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